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Cigar Basics

Cigar Basics: Size & Gauge

Cigars are measured by two factors: length, which is given in inches, and “ring gauge,” a designation of a cigar’s diameter broken into 64ths of an inch.

There’s no real trick to this – the ring gauge system may appear confusing at first, but it is simply an antiquated system that measures the diameter of a cigar in units of 64 (64 is equal to 1 inch).

Therefore, a ring gauge of 48 would be a 3/4 of an inch thick (48 divided by 64).

There is no correlation between the size of a cigar and its strength. An 8-inch cigar made with mild tobaccos will be mellow, while a thin, short cigar rolled with powerful tobaccos will be full bodied.

While a cigar’s strength is determined by the tobacco it is rolled with, thin cigars have a tendency to burn hotter than fatter ones.

Also important to note is that there is no consistency of strength from brand to brand: one company’s corona is likely to taste very different from another’s.


Parejos meaning parallel in Spanish are straight-sided cigars; most have an open foot for lighting and need to be cut before smoking. They may be either round or box-pressed, meaning that the sides of the cigar were pressed square prior to packing or, in some cases, by pressure in the box.


This is the standard size against which all other sizes are measured. The traditional size of a corona is 5 1/2 to 6 inches. It typically has a ring gauge of 42 to 44. Example: Montecristo No. 3

Petit Corona

Essentially a miniature version of a corona. Its’ measurements are closer to 4 1/2 inches, with a ring gauge that’s also a little smaller than the typical corona. Example: Montecristo No. 4


This is the opposite of petit corona. Still a corona format, but with dimensions around 7 inches by a 47 ring gauge. Example: Romeo y Julieta Churchill


Robusto’s are shorter cigar with a larger gauge. This has become one of the most popular cigar sizes in America. The dimensions are generally 4 3/4 to 5 1/2 inches with a 48 to 52 ring gauge. Example: Cohiba Robusto

Corona Gorda

Typically referred to as a toro, this cigar has become very popular. The traditional measurements for a corona gorda or toro is 5 5/8 inches by a 46 ring gauge, but cigars 6 inches by a 50 gauge are also considered a corona gorda. Example: Punch Punch

Double Corona

Just like the corona but longer and with a larger ring gauge. The standard dimensions are 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 inches by a 49 to 52 ring gauge. Example: Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona


Long, thin and elegant, you don’t see to many of these around anymore. They are usually have a wide length variation of 5 to 7 1/2 inches with a ring gauge of 34 to 38. Cigars longer than 7 inches in this category are often referred to as “gran panetelas.” Example: Cohiba Lancero


A lonsdale is generally longer than a corona but thicker than a panetela, with a classic size of 6 1/2 inches by 42 ring. This cigar shape allows for a concentration of flavor and an ample burn time. Example: Montecristo No. 1


The majority of cigars are parejos, but a growing number of cigar companies are increasing their portfolios with more creatively shaped sticks. They are called figurados, and they include any cigar that is not a straight-sided cylinder. Cigarmakers’ interpretations of the shapes vary as widely as the flavors of their cigars. The most common figurados are as follows:


Pyramids are cigars with one end open, like parejos, but with heads tapered to a point just like a pyramid. The cigars measure from 6 to 7 inches in length, with ring gauges of about 40 at the head widening to 52 to 54 at the foot. The pyramid is a favorite because the tapered head allows the flavors of the cigar to merge in the mouth. Example: Montecristo No. 2


Belicosos are traditionally short pyramids, often with a slightly rounded pyramid head. They often measure from 5 to 5 1/2 inches, with ring gauges of about 50. However today’s belicosos,  are often coronas or corona gordas with tapered heads. Recently we have also seen the production of mini-belicosos, a shorter cigar with small ring gauges and tapered heads. Example: Bolivar Belicoso Fino


A lot companies include cigars called torpedos in their portfolios, but what is often the case the cigar is really a pyramid. A true torpedo is a rare cigar these days. It has a closed foot, a head tapered to a point, and a bulge in the middle. Example: Cuaba Millennium


Like the torpedo, the perfecto has a closed foot and a bulge in the middle. Where they differ is the head of a perfecto is rounded like the head of a parejo. Perfectos vary in length, from a short 4 1/2 inches to unwieldy 9-inch cigars, with ring gauges from 38 to 48. Example: Partagas Presidente


You don’t really see these anymore, the culebra is perhaps the most exotic shape of cigar made. It consists of three panetelas braided together and tied with string and sold as one cigar. You would cut the string and unbraid the cigars to smoke them separately. The culebra is usually 5 to 6 inches long with most often a 38 ring gauge. Since they are difficult to find, you might consider sharing the other two cigars with two of your friends, turning the smoking of a culebra into a special occasion. Example: Partagas Culebra


Clocking in at 8 1/2 inches or longer diademas are enormous! Usually the head is tapered and most of the time not to a complete point. They tend to have a ring gauge of 40. The cigar tapers down to a foot that is sometimes open like a parejo or closed like a perfecto, usually with a ring gauge of 52 or greater. When you have all the time in the world this is a cigar for you.  Example: Hoyo de Monterrey Diadema    


From light to dark, these are the commonly used wrapper colors:

Cigar wrappers come in a wide range of colors, from the palest of greens, yellows, brown and all the way to dark black. There are seven basic color distinctions among wrappers, and each wrapper has endless amount of shades between each color.

The color differences are due to the many methods of processing tobacco and the variety of tobacco strains used. Sunlight also plays a factor and will usually darken the leaf more than if it is shade-grown even if they are equivalent seed strains.


A light tan color, usually achieved by growing in shade under cheesecloth tents. They pick the plants early and air-drying the leaves. Flavorwise, these wrappers are bland, and are designed allow the flavors of the filler tobaccos to dominate of the cigar.


Maduro meaning “mature” in Spanish, this wrapper gets its name from the longer time needed to cure this color wrapper than wrappers that are lighter.  They can vary from a deep reddish-brown to almost black. The leaves are either toasted in a pressure chamber or fermented longer in above-average heat. Either way a maduro wrapper lends significant flavor to a cigar: it tends to be mild in aroma, but to have robust, almost sweet flavor.


Most often Brazilian or Mexican in origin this black-as-night wrapper shade is achieved by leaving the leaves on the plant as long as possible. They also only use the leaves from the top of the plant, then they ferment them for an especially long time. Oscuro wrappers are often very rough, a result of the extra fermentation. This category is sometimes referred to as “black,” “negro” or “double maduro.”


Colorado leaves are the center of the color scale. These cigars are medium-brown to brownish-red. They are often shade grown and the leaves are left to mature far longer than their lighter counterparts to develop their robust profile.

Colorado Claro

Often grown in direct sunlight, these leaves are reddish-brown and given longer to mature before picking. The result is a so-called natural wrapper that isn’t too dark or too light.

Colorado Maduro

Also Known As: Spanish Market Selection they are seen as something of a compromise between the Colorado and Maduro, it used to be the Spanish favorite. However, this is no longer the case.

Candela (Double Claro)

This wrapper is light green, caused by a quick-drying process using heat that locks in the green chlorophyll of the tobacco. Kind of an old school wrapper that is making a comeback americans smoked billions of them between 1958 and the early 70s. The term American Market Seletion (abbreviated as AMS) was created to designate green or candela colored wrappers.


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